SSIA payouts send tourists flocking across the Atlantic

HOLIDAYMAKERS are heading in droves to the United States thanks to SSIA bonuses pouring into their bank accounts and rock-bottom prices due to a weak dollar.

Holidays to the States are at their cheapest in a long time for Irish tourists due to a benign exchange rate between the dollar and euro.

The value of the dollar against the euro is at its weakest ever, meaning people in euro zone countries can get more dollars for their money.

And buoyed by the last round of the SSIA bonuses paid out last month, travel agents are reporting that bookings are up by 50% on last year.

The weak dollar also means Ireland’s shopaholics can get extra dollars for their euro and buy even more clothes, jewellery and gadgets in cities such as New York.

“This year there are a lot of early bookings because of the SSIA and because people know if they book early they will get their holidays cheaper,” said Jack Sheill, manager of independent Cork travel agents Dawson Travel.

Demand is so high for hotels in New York in autumn that prices in dollars have gone up but the rise has been cancelled out for Irish tourists by a better-value euro.

Mr Sheill said holidaymakers were preferring to stay in two- or three-star hotels instead of top-rate establishments in order to have more money to spend on shopping.

“The cost of an average holiday is €700 to €800, which represents about 20% of their spending as they are going out to spend the rest on shopping. They’re going out with empty suitcases so that they can fill them up.

“They’re benefiting from the double whammy of their SSIAs and the weak dollar, which is forecast to fall further and make holidays even better value.”

As the Canadian dollar follows the trends set by the US dollar, breaks to Canada are also becoming cheaper, said Mr Sheill.

One downside to the falling dollar is that tourists from North America find that holidays to Ireland become more expensive.

But the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation said visitor numbers from the US and Canada are rising despite the hike in costs to both countries.

Confederation chairman Dick Bourke said: “Air fares, hotel accommodation and car hire prices are still regarded by US tourists coming here as competitive. Against that background in the 12 months to this April we have seen a 10% increase in visitors from North America.”

Confederation figures reveal 1,055,000 holidaymakers arrived from North America in 2006 compared with 900,000 the year before.

Ireland also saw an increase in tourists from its most important market, Britain, where sterling is strong against both the euro and the dollar, making Continental and US holidays cheaper for Britons.

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